What I'm Watching: Poltergeist of Borley Forest
This was one of the recent movies that fell on my "Oh, this looks interesting!" list for the last month. It was originally called You Will Love Me, buuut, it looks like someone decided to market this movie in such a way as to draw as many eyeballs from recent horror movies. The name was changed to "The POLTERGEIST of Borley Forest". And while the emphasis is mine, it's not far off from the actual font on the art. And then there's the tag line, "If it follows you home, it will drag you to hell." That's like, two too many movies they're trying to make you think of.
And trust me, you DO NOT want to be thinking of ANY of these movies. The original title is SO much better, and better suits the tone and story of the movie. The rest of the stuff is just trying to capitalise, and it's almost more shameless than a movie from the Asylum.
But, this is all secondary. A title can be crap, and the actual content can be good, so what's the deal here with Borley? Because I refuse to shorten it to "Poltergeist".
The plot revolves around a young woman, Paige, with very strict parents who sneaks off to a party in the titular Borley Forest. While there, she wanders through the woods trying to find her ride, and instead disturbs a spirit that follows the cute redhead home.
...Well, I can't fault the ghost for that, at least.
Ahem. Anyways, things start going weird, she has several nights of very bad visitations, people catch glimpses of strange figures that are there then gone, and we fall into your typical quest to discover What Is Going On??
We eventually learn that the ghost was some guy who killed a few girls and his brother in the forest, then was dragged out there and murdered himself for revenge by the local angry mob. So, it mixes in the typical ghost story tropes, and the 'old secret of the townsfolk doing bad things' type of movie, and it's pretty successful.
There's some decently creepy moments, the story is well paced and unfolds well enough without too many lags, although it feels like some things weren't quite thought out, or didn't make the final cut. The story felt lean, without some necessary meat on the bones. Possibly because this is such well-trodden ground in horror movies, even if they do mix in some other stuff, that there's not enough uniqueness to really make this movie its own thing.
The best part is by far the actress playing Paige, Marina Petrano. She has a really likable personality, and a look that is a strange mix of Lindsay Lohan and the girl next door. She does play the typical rebellious teenager, and that does hurt her likability somewhat, but her strict parents mitigated that for me, and made her more annoying moments at least understandable in context.
Most of the rest of the cast is pretty forgettable, save for Paige's brother, who is her lone defender against her parents. I'm not quite sure if Christopher Ingle is believable as Tommy the veteran, but like Marina, he has a charm and wit about him, and has good screen presence.
Especially forgettable is the ghost, which mostly appears as a shadowy, hazy form, with no real personality, but that's almost typical of this sort of film. But this time, they need you to care about what happened to him, and they never really drew me in to his story. I also think they dropped the ball on the final twist, because they kept SHOWING us, very clearly, that there were two ghosts. Revealing that they got rid of the wrong spirit, the good one, would have landed a lot more solidly if they had held back on revealing that to the audience, and then let us see the clues were there all along upon rewatching.
But my biggest complaint is that this is an indie movie, with typical indie movie problems. They make the most of it, and I certainly don't judge this badly because it's not from Paramount or Lionsgate, or whomever. But the audio in this movie was pretty poor. Things look good, the effects are all right for a movie of this nature, but the audio feels like they set up a room mic and had that get all the audio, including the room noise. It was a major downer and hurt the experience. This is one of my biggest complaints of indie flicks, and it is a shame it reared its head here.
Overall, Borley Forest is a decent enough movie with a few good ideas, but we've been here before. The plot is cobbled together from other, better movies. But it still tells a pretty solid story on its own. The star shines though, and the movie is entertaining enough. I definitely think it's worth watching, as long as you're aware of what you're in for. I am intrigued to see what these filmmakers do next, since this is an early film for them, and they can surely fix mistakes in later films.